What makes cartoonists tick?
An oldage goes that whatever looks simple is usually the most difficult thing to do. This can be readily applied to cartooning. Glancing at newspapers as a youth, I recall seeing the same strips day in, day out, with few of them longer than four panels. Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” seemed to start the trend for an even easier task: the single panel cartoon. Yes, these artists could draw and yes they could be funny (rarely, in my opinion even as a kid) but it couldn’t be that difficult! Now, guys like Robert Crumb must have had it more difficult since they had a lot more room to fill.
Naturally, I’m wrong. Cartooning is a difficult job and cartoonists must have a certain temperament, especially those with deadlines. What makes these unique characters tick? Seth, the author of Down the Stairs, explains to us the life of a cartoonist in The Quiet Art of Cartooning.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
A cartoonist isn’t like a writer. Writing requires a special kind of focus. Your mind must be utterly devoted to the task at hand. When I’m breaking down a strip or hammering out dialogue, I’m using that writer’s focus. But drawing and inking are different. They use different parts of the brain. I often find that when I’m drawing, only half my mind is on the work — watching proportions, balancing compositions, eliminating unnecessary details.
The other half is free to wander. Usually, it’s off in a reverie, visiting the past, picking over old hurts, or recalling that sense of being somewhere specific — at a lake during childhood, or in a nightclub years ago. These reveries are extremely important to the work, and they often find their way into whatever strip I’m working on at the time.